Here you go:
Today is a MARVELOUS day because I spied an advance reader’s copy on Chris and Heidi’s desk of “A Tale of Light and Shadow.” It’s real! It’s here! I’m so excited! I've been dreaming of this day for over a year---ever since I devoured your book “Flight from Blithmore.” I’m Nada Midkiff, the person at Deseret Book who first read your book and then began a campaign to be your “secret agent” inside Deseret Book (little did you know that you had an agent all long. LOL). Yup, I’m the one who touted your book loud and clear. I thought you might enjoy hearing the story. . . . .
My family and I moved 14 times in our lives. During one 5-year phase we moved every year to a different state. My kids quickly learned that their best friends were their own siblings! They became exquisitely close. During all of these moves I made wonderful friends and connections throughout the U.S. When I began working here at Deseret Book I was soon contacted by various friends saying “Hey Nada, could you recommend a book on the topic of ___. My child is really struggling and I need all the help I can get” . . or. . “I’m looking for a great fiction book to give my spouse. What would you recommend?” I received so many emails like this that I couldn’t keep up with them. To solve this, I decided to send out a semi-annual email called “Nada’s Top Picks” and it contained my ranking of the new products at Deseret book (with a brief review of each title). I sent it to all my friends and family (and I have a HUGE family---over 75 cousins alone!) I would also get similar requests for my “picks” from bishops, stake presidents, Relief Society Presidents and other leaders that I worked with all over the world---so I also began a “Bishop’s Library” that had topics they were interested in and my recommendations. Interestingly enough, my contacts take my semi-annual emails and forward them on to their friends, family and ward members (like a “calling tree”). I get emails from people all over the world.
My friends and family know that I am an avid reader (I read 2-3 books a week). I purposely try to read as many of Deseret Book’s publications as I can so that I can review them. I read every topic---doctrinal, self-help, fantasy, mysteries, histories, sci-fi, BYU titles, etc. Because I read so much, I am quite picky. If I don’t like something I will mention it in my review (people trusted that). Or, a title may not even make my “top picks” at all. (In my mind I give authors an A, B, C, D or F grade).
The word got out at Deseret Book that I was doing this (I actually work in the legal area preparing contracts). I was soon asked to read and vote on various books created by LDS authors/publishers which were being nominated for various awards. You have to be a fast reader because you only have a couple of months to complete them all. When I do this, I purposely will not read the title, cover, publisher, title page, or marketing text! I don’t want to even know who wrote the book because I don’t want to be prejudiced. Whoever receives my vote, did so because they were the best (not because of “who” they were).
In 2013 I had volunteered to read 15 titles for the Whitney Awards. I had completed reviewing 14 of the 15 books when I was given “Flight from Blithmore” to read. Within pages I was totally captivated. I began thinking. . . “This is REALLY good!! Can this author keep it up? Will it bog somewhere?” When I turned the last page I sat the book down with a sigh and said in my heart, “Wow, I don’t want this story to ever end! I wish this person was our author. He writes the kind of stories that I LOVE to read and recommend.” Then, I flipped the book to the front cover to discover who the author was and read Jacob Gowans. I then looked to see who the publisher was (hmmm none was listed). Next, I read the introduction and the very last words gave me hope---you had no agent or publisher! You didn’t know it, but at that moment your “secret agent” was born. (LOL)
Two seconds later I burst into Chris Schoebinger’s office and said, “Chris, you know how picky I am and how good an author must be to get an “A” from me. I just discovered an “A” author. I liked him better than [a certain national best-selling author].” (Shhh don’t tell [same author] this. LOL. But that is truthfully what I said to Chris.) Chris incredulously replied, “REALLY? An “A”?” I said, “Yup, it was so good I stayed up all night to finish reading it in the wee hours of the morning.” Chris then said, “Nada, that is high praise coming from you.” (He knows how picky I am).
I then replied, “This author deserves every bit of my praise. He got my Whitney vote for the category his book appeared in and he was up against some tough competition. Frankly, he is the best of all the categories I read. He has a variety of characters that play off each other. For example, I found myself roaring with laughter on the TRAX train. And, when I remembered where I was, I looked up and could see everybody on the train craning their necks to try to figure out what I was reading! They are delightful characters! One moment you are laughing and the very next moment you are gripping your seat as you wonder if the characters will ‘get out of the mess they are in.’ The plot is incredible with clever twists and turns. . . and I couldn’t put it down. You get nabbed early and it just keeps building until the end. Talk about political intrigue and fun back stories! He has kings, queens, fight scenes and love. Both men and women will like this title. . . it has everything in it. Then, best of all, he creates an incredible twist and a cliff-hanging ending that makes you instantly want to buy the next volume so you can find out what happens next. There is something else in it Chris. . . I found many scenes that subtly teach duty to friends, repentance, honor, good versus evil, etc. The characters actually grow in the plot. Trust me Chris, you’ll want to read this one.”
A week later, Chris officially reported that he had read the book and was going to contact you. I WAS THRILLED!
Now, imagine my fun when I just happened to be in Chris’ office the day you came to Deseret Book. I asked him, “Chris, would you mind if I went down to the foyer to get Jacob and bring him up to your meeting? I’d like to meet him.” Chris grinned and said, “You discovered him Nada. . . you deserve to meet!”
Today, as I gently picked up the new Advanced Reading Copy of “A Tale of Light and Shadow” I was spellbound. It was here at last! The cover was amazing. An “A” cover for an “A” book. Chris and Heidi had exceeded a “secret agent’s” expectations. Then as I was casually flipping through the book I saw the “Acknowledgements” in the back of the book and read “. . . I was able to attract the attention of Shadow Mountain Publishing and receive my first book deal. For that deal, I’d like to thank Heidi Taylor, Chris Schoebinger, and especially Nada Midkiff (gulp, did I just read that correctly?!), who pushed my book to them in the first place.” (Double take and re-read that sentence about five times. Holy cow, it is my name!)
I couldn’t believe it. That acknowledgement was the perfect ending for the perfect day. I was touched beyond belief. (Truly!) Thank you for your kind acknowledgement. It REALLY touched me. And. . . believe me. . . I’m so thrilled to see my favorite “A” author in print.
So that is my tale. . . Ruther would call it the “Tale of Jacob Gowans and the Secret Agent.”
I hope I see you soon again at Deseret Book! Please tell your wife that I’m grateful that she allows you to write and bless the world.